Source: ‘The Bologna Process and Implications for Canada’s Universities‘, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada International Meeting, 26-27 January 2009.
Further to our recent entries on European reactions and activities in relationship to global rankings schemes:
- International university rankings, classifications & mappings – a view from the European University Association
- The global obsession with rankings: how should Ireland respond?
- Multi-scalar governance technologies vs recurring revenue: the dual logics of the rankings phenomenon
- ‘University Systems Ranking (USR)’: an alternative ranking framework from EU think-tank
- Times Higher Education – QS World University Rankings (2008): a niche industry in formation?
- Euro angsts, insights and actions regarding global university ranking schemes
and a forthcoming guest contribution to SHIFTmag: Europe Talks to Brussels, ranking(s) watchers should examine this new tender for a €1,100,000 (maximum) contract for the ‘Design and testing the feasibility of a Multi-dimensional Global University Ranking’, to be completed by 2011.
The Terms of Reference, which hs been issued by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Education and Culture, is particularly insightful, while this summary conveys the broad objectives of the initiative:
The new ranking to be designed and tested would aim to make it possible to compare and benchmark similar institutions within and outside the EU, both at the level of the institution as a whole and focusing on different study fields. This would help institutions to better position themselves and improve their development strategies, quality and performances. Accessible, transparent and comparable information will make it easier for stakeholders and, in particular, students to make informed choices between the different institutions and their programmes. Many existing rankings do not fulfil this purpose because they only focus on certain aspects of research and on entire institutions, rather than on individual programmes and disciplines. The project will cover all types of universities and other higher education institutions as well as research institutes.
The funding is derived out of the Lifelong Learning policy and program stream of the Commission.
Thus we see a shift, in Europe, towards the implementation of an alternative scheme to the two main global ranking schemes, supported by substantial state resources at a regional level. It will be interesting to see how this eventual scheme complements and/or overturns the other global ranking schemes that are products of media outlets, private firms, and Chinese universities.
Source: European University Association Newsletter, No. 20, 5 December 2008.
Near the end of my sabbatical year in Paris (and Europe more generally), I spent some time taking photographs on the grounds of La Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, which is located on a 34 hectare site in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.
I used to spend a lot of time on the lovely grounds of Cité Internationale with my two children as we lived near it. I also had a chance to visit one of the residences (La Fondation des Etats-Unis) where my eldest son’s cello teacher was based (courtesy of a Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship).
The Cité Internationale “represents the largest concentration of residence halls in Paris and the Ile-de-France region: 5 600 beds in 38 residences”, in addition to a “whole range of facilities and services” for both the students and researchers who stay, as well as the general public and even tourists. Historically, and at the present moment, Cité Internationale primarily provides services for students and researchers from outside of France, though some students from regions outside of Paris have and continue to be welcomed.
In some ways the Cité Internationale is clearly of a previous era, marked as it is by an inter-national conceptual framework. This is because the 38 residences were primarily focused on supporting students from particular countries, or else distinctive regions (usually those with a French colonial complexion).
See this link for a link to home pages for all of these residences: Abreu de Grancher (Cuba), Argentine, Arménie, Arts et Métiers, Asie du Sud-Est, Avicenne (previously Iran), Biermans-Lapôtre (Belgian and Luxembourg), Brésil, Cambodge, Canada, CICS (International Center for Short Stays), Collège Franco-Britannique, Danemark, Deutsch de la Meurthe, Espagne, Etats-Unis, Heinrich Heine (Germany), Héllenique Honnorat, Inde, Industries agricoles et alimentaires, Institut national agronomique, Italie, Japon, Liban, Lucien Paye (Africa), Maison Internationale, Maroc, Mexique, Monaco, Néerlandais (collège), Norvège, Portugal (André De Gouveia), Provinces de France, Robert Garric, Suède, Suisse, Tunisie, Victor Lyon.
In contrast to today’s thinking, foreign students from the late 1920s on were placed within their national residences within the Cité Internationale, an approach to hosting that could not help but inhibit aspects of inter-cultural dialogue on a day to day residential basis. To be sure there was inter-cultural dialogue; indeed this was the logic behind the establishment of Cité Internationale in the 1920s:
The Cité internationale universitaire of Paris was created in the pacifist context of the 1920s to support exchanges among students of the whole world. The story starts in 1920 when an important French industrialist, Emile DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE, wishing to create an enduring gift to society, contacted Paul APPELL, vice-chancellor of the University of Paris. Worried by the difficulties of students’ housing, Appell suggested to him founding a university residence. André HONNORAT, Minister for Public Education, approved of the project and devoted all his energy for nearly the next thirty years to its realization
Yet the exchanges would have been focused upon scholarly matters for the most part, versus the social learning associated with the mundane (e.g., exchanges regarding shared cooking duties, or how to coordinate the cleaning of shared apartments, both hilariously examined in the 2002 film L’Auberge espagnole). In short it is hard to imagine any authority, these days, placing so many foreign students within their ‘national’ houses. Indeed most residences in Cité Internationale now welcome applications from students of any nationality.
Yet in other ways, Cité Internationale was and is decades ahead of the majority of current thinking about the handling of mobile foreign students and scholars.
First, Cité Internationale is a product of a higher education era where the philanthropists and industrialists were vigorously active, far-sighted, and more concerned with encouraging enlightened thinking and substantive change versus their being fixated upon their personal wealth or disbursing some of this wealth under the right tax conditions, ideally with a naming rights rider. As the Cité website notes:
The Cité was founded in 1925, thanks to the generosity of industrialists, bankers and foreign foundations. Under the aegis of the minister André HONNORAT, the first president of the Cité, the industrialist Émile DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE, the banker David DAVID-WEILL, followed by many others [e.g., John D. ROCKEFELLER Jr.], offered to the future elites of the five continents a place of exceptional welcome. Their goal was to promote peace, exchanges and friendship among peoples after the trauma of the first World War. This is a mission still germane today.
With considerable foresight they established what has been deemed a “private foundation of public utility”. Yet 83 years later, in 2008, the EU, most member states, and numerous stakeholder organizations are facing huge challenges trying to cultivate philanthropy with respect to higher education, dominated as it is by national and sometimes state governments, with some funding also coming from the supra-national EU level. Can you point me to a new higher ed space, of this scale, anywhere in the world (let alone Europe), that is the product of “industrialists, bankers and foreign foundations”, in partnership with multiple levels of government?
And second, despite some challenges associated with housing foreign exchange students in a designated space (a campus, and within residences), spaces like Cité Internationale reflect the production of a service space, a space for knowledge production, and a space for the formation of social relations, that is not associated with any one university, while also being designed to ground mobile exchange students in a different territory for lengthy periods of time.
Thus we see musicians like the talented cellist who taught my son living side by side with chemists associated with university X in the Paris city-region, fine art scholars associated with university Y in Paris city-region, and mathematicians associated with research institute Z in the Paris city-region. This may have been, and is still (to a lesser degree) an international space, but it is also an exemplary interdisciplinary and inter-institutional space that brings together international scholars associated with many institutions that are based throughout the Paris city-region. This partly explains why the Region Ile-de-France has played such an important role in the substantial renovations process (that has been underway for over a decade). Cité Internationale is thus a form of higher education for regional development in a globalizing era, though via an initiative framed back in the 1920s! Imagine multiple universities coordinating the creation of such a space in a city-region like Amsterdam, London, Shanghai, Sydney or Toronto, though in a manner that folds in more students from the host country.
The remainder of this entry is photographic in nature – a tour through Cité Internationale, especially the facades of the central meeting space (the Maison Internationale, financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr.), and the “houses” that were designed (primarily between 1923 and 1969) to theoretically reflect national cultures. Many of the architects (e.g., Le Corbusier) were national heroes with international stature. This is a landscape designed to be read, and it reflects a diversity of conceptual currents that were prominent at the time, including the notion of culture as trait (versus process), colonial visions and postcolonial adjustments, and especially the international modern movement (which is captured very well in the Brazilian and Swiss houses). Each house also has a distinct and evolving history, for the operation of national or regional houses often reflected national crises including wars, genocide, revolutions (e.g., Iran), decolonization and independence, and so on.
Recall that 5,600 residents are housed in the Cité with thousands more visiting the grounds on a daily basis. I’ll leave it to you to detect what nations or regions, if any, these buildings represent, though link here if you need some hints…
Update: also see ‘Video feed: Chambre 124, Cité International Universitaire de Paris’ (dir. Fabio Brasil, 2006)
The Beerkens’ blog noted, on 1 July, how the university rankings effect has even gone as far as reshaping immigration policy in the Netherlands. He included this extract, from a government policy proposal (‘Blueprint for a modern migration policy’):
Migrants are eligible if they received their degree from a university that is in the top 150 of two international league tables of universities. Because of the overlap, the lists consists of 189 universities…
Quite the authority being vetted in ranking schemes that are still in the process of being hotly debated!
On this broad topic, I’ve been traveling throughout Europe this academic year, pursuing a project not related to rankings, yet again and again rankings come up as a topic of discussion, reminding us of the de-facto global governance power of rankings (and the rankers). Ranking schemes, especially the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities, and The Times Higher-QS World University Rankings are generating both governance impacts, and substantial anxiety, in multiple quarters.
In response, the European Commission is funding some research and thinking on the topic, while France’s new role in the rotating EU Presidency is supposed to lead to some further focus and attention over the next six months. More generally, here is a random list of European or Europe-based initiatives to examine the nature, impacts, and politics of global rankings:
- European Benchmarking Initiative in Higher Education
- A European classification of higher education institutions (stage I)
- Classifying European Institutions for higher education (stage II)
- The Leiden Ranking
- OCED Study: The Impact of Rankings on Higher Education
- Proposed OECD Feasibility Study for the International Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO). Link here and here
- Ranking Systems Clearinghouse (with contributions from the Lumina Foundation, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), UNESCO-European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES), and the International Rankings Expert Group (IREG))
- International Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence
- EU Expert Group on Assessment of University-based Research (2008 on)
And here are some recent or forthcoming events:
- Academic Cooperation Association Forum (‘International rankings and indicators: what they tell us and what they don’t’), 8 April 2008
- Berlin Conference on Typology, 10-11 July 2008
- OECD Conference (‘Outcomes of higher education: the quality, relevance and impact of higher education’), 8-10 September 2008
Yet I can’t help but wonder why Europe, which generally has high quality universities, despite some significant challenges, did not seek to shed light on the pros and cons of the rankings phenomenon any earlier. In other words, despite the critical mass of brainpower in Europe, what has hindered a collective, integrated, and well-funded interrogation of the ranking schemes from emerging before the ranking effects and path dependency started to take hold? Of course there was plenty of muttering, and some early research about rankings, and one could argue that I am viewing this topic through a rear view mirror, but Europe was, arguably, somewhat late in digging into this topic considering how much of an impact these assessment cum governance schemes are having.
So, if absence matters as much as presence in the global higher ed world, let’s ponder the absence of a serious European critique, or at least interrogation of, rankings and the rankers, until now. Let me put forward four possible explanations.
First, action at a European higher education scale has been focused upon bringing the European Higher Education Area to life via the Bologna Process, which was formally initiated in 1999. Thus there were only so many resources – intellectual and material – that could be allocated to higher education, so the Europeans are only now looking outwards to the power of rankings and the rankers. In short, key actors with a European higher education and research development vision have simply been too busy to focus on the rankings phenomenon and its effects.
A second explanation might be that European stakeholders are, deep down, profoundly uneasy about competition with respect to higher education, of which benchmarking and ranking is a part. But, as the Dublin Institute of Technology’s Ellen Hazelkorn notes in Australia’s Campus Review (27 May 2008):
Rankings are the latest weapon in the battle for world-class excellence. They are a manifestation of escalating global competition and the geopolitical search for talent, and are now a driver of that competition and a metaphor for the reputation race. What started out as an innocuous consumer product – aimed at undergraduate domestic students – has become a policy instrument, a management tool, and a transmitter of social, cultural and professional capital for the faculty and students who attend high-ranked institutions….
In the post-massification higher education world, rankings are widening the gap between elite and mass education, exacerbating the international division of knowledge. They inflate the academic arms race, locking institutions and governments into a continual quest for ever increasing resources which most countries cannot afford without sacrificing other social and economic policies. Should institutions and governments allow their higher education policy to be driven by metrics developed by others for another purpose?
It is worth noting that Ellen Hazelkorn is currently finishing an OECD-sponsored study on the effects of rankings.
In short, institutions associated with European higher education did not know how to assertively critique (or at least interrogate) ranking schemes as they never realized, until more recently, how ranking schemes are deeply geopolitical and geoeconomic vehicles that enable the powerful to maintain their standing, and harness yet even more resources inward. Angst regarding competition dulled senses to the intrinsically competitive logic of global university ranking schemes, and the political nature of their being.
Third, perhaps European elites, infatuated as they are with US Ivy League universities, or private institutions like Stanford, just accepted the schemes for the results summarized in this table from an OECD working paper (July 2007) written by Simon Marginson and Marijk van der Wende:
for they merely reinforced their acceptance of one form of American exceptionalism that has been acknowledged in Europe for some time. In other words, can one expect critiques of schemes that identify and peg, at the top, universities that many European elites would kill to send their children to, to emerge? I’m not so sure. As with Asia (where I worked from 1997-2001), and now in Europe, people seem infatuated with the standing of universities like Harvard, MIT, and Princeton, but these universities really operate in a parallel universe. Unless European governments, or the EU, are willing to establish 2-3 universities like King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia recently did with a $10 billion endowment, then angling to compete with the US privates should just be forgotten about. The new European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) innovative as it may become, will not rearrange the rankings results, assuming they should indeed be rearranged.
Following what could be defined as a fait accompli phase, national and European political leaders came to progressively view the low status of European universities in the two key rankings schemes – Shanghai, and Times Higher – as a problematic situation. Why? The Lisbon Strategy emerges in 2000, was relaunched in 2005, and slowly starts to generate impacts, while also being continually retuned. Thus, if the strategy is to “become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”, how can Europe become such a competitive global force when universities – key knowledge producers – are so far off fast emerging and now hegemonic global knowledge production maps?
In this political context, especially given state control over higher education budgets, and the relaunched Lisbon agenda drive, Europe’s rankers of ranking schemes were then propelled into action, in trebuchet-like fashion. 2010 is, after all, a key target date for a myriad of European scale assessments.
Fourth, Europe includes the UK, despite the feelings of many on both sides of the Channel. Powerful and well-respected institutions, with a wealth of analytical resources, are based in the UK, the global centre of calculation regarding bibliometrics (which rankings are a part of). Yet what role have universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, UCL, and so on, or stakeholder organizations like Universities UK (UUK) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), played in shedding light on the pros and cons of rankings for European institutions of higher education? I might be uninformed but the critiques are not emerging from the well placed, despite their immense experience with bibliometrics. In short as rankings aggregate data that works at a level of abstraction that hoves universities into view, and places UK universities highly (up there with Yale, Harvard and MIT), then these UK universities (or groups like UUK) will inevitably be concerned about their relative position, not the position of the broader regional system of which they are part, nor the rigour of the ranking methodologies. Interestingly, the vast majority of the above initiatives I listed only include representatives from universities that are ranked relatively low by the two main ranking schemes that now hold hegemonic power. I could also speculate on why the French contribution to the regional debate is limited, but will save that for another day.
These are but four of many possible explanations for why European higher education might have been relatively slow to grapple with the power and effects of university ranking schemes considering how much angst and impacts they generate. This said, you could argue, as Eric Beerkens has in the comments section below, that the European response was actually not late off the mark, despite what I argued above. The Shanghai rankings emerged in June 2003, and I still recall the attention they generated when they were first circulated. Three to five years for sustained action in some sectors is pretty quick, while in some sectors it is not.
In conclusion, it is clear that Europe has been destabilized by an immutable mobile – a regionally and now globally understood analytical device that holds together, travels across space, and is placed in reports, ministerial briefing notes, articles, PPT presentations, newspaper and magazine stories, etc. And it is only now that Europe is seriously interrogating the power of such devices, the data and methodologies that underly their production, and the global geopolitics and geoeconomics that they are part and parcel of.
I would argue that it is time to allocate substantial European resources to a deep, sustained, and ongoing analysis of the rankers, their ranking schemes, and associated effects. Questions remain, though, about how much light will be shed on the nature of university rankings schemes, what proposals or alternatives might emerge, and how the various currents of thought in Europe converge or diverge as some consensus is sought. Some institutions in Europe are actually happy that this ‘new reality’ has emerged for it is perceived to facilitate the ‘modernization’ of universities, enhance transparency at an intra-university scale, and elevate the role of the European Commission in European higher education development dynamics. Yet others equate rankings and classification schema with neoliberalism, commodification, and Americanization: this partly explains the ongoing critiques of the typology initiatives I linked to above, which are, to a degree, inspired by the German Excellence initiative, which is in turn partially inspired by a vision of what the US higher education system is.
Regardless, the rankings topic is not about to disappear. Let us hope that the controversies, debates, and research (current and future) inspire coordinated and rigorous European initiatives that will shed more light on this new form of defacto global governance. Why? If Europe does not do it, no one else will, at least in a manner that recognizes the diverse contributions that higher education can and should make to development processes at a range of scales.
23 July update: see here for a review of a 2 juillet 2008 French Senate proposal to develop a new European ranking system that better reflects the nature of knowledge production (including language) in France and Europe more generally. The full report (French only) can be downloaded here, while the press release (French only) can be read here. France is, of course, going to publish a Senate report in French, though the likely target audience for the broader message (including a critique of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities) only partially understands French. Yet in some ways it would have been better to have the report released simultaneously in both French and English. But the contradictions of France critiquing dominant ranking schemes for their bias towards the English language, in English, was likely too much to take. In the end though, the French critique is well worth considering, and I can’t help but think that the EU or one of the many emerging initiatives above would be wise to have the report immediately translated and placed on some relevant websites so that it can be downloaded for review and debate.
Europe has undoubtedly become a more mobile space. Borders have been erased, and people, capital, services and goods (factors of production, more generally) can theoretically move, unimpeded, across European space.
Apart from legal and regulatory shifts to enhance mobility, taken-for granted infrastructure systems are being constructed that enable people and their ideas to travel at enhanced speed across European space. These non-places of supermodernity, to use a phrase developed by Marc Auge, not only function to facilitate mobility, but they also signify mobility. Even within European nations, mobility is being enhanced as governments develop high-speed rail systems, for example, that enable people (including researchers and students) to cross space with increased ease.
At a seminar, late last week, for example, one of us (Kris) spoke to faculty who work at l’Université de Provence Aix Marseille 1, though who live not just in Aix-en-Provence, but also in Marseille, Paris, and places even further a-field, thanks to the high speed TGV train system. Indeed, any North American spending a year in Europe, like one of us is, cannot help but be enamored with the idea of hurtling 270km/h across the country while sipping an espresso, reading a book, and periodically gazing out at the blur of landscape that is the glorious French countryside.
In a sign that Europe is willing to use a wide variety of rationales for enhancing mobility even further, the EU spent the Spring of 2008 laying the groundwork for a “new freedom” – “the movement of knowledge”. On 15 February 2008, for example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik spoke to an AAAS High Level Panel:
Today’s Europe is built on the four freedoms of goods, services, capital and people. The knowledge society of tomorrow needs the freedom, the freedom of movement of knowledge.
But did he really mean ‘knowledge society’, or ‘knowledge economy’? Later on in February and March, the answer to this question was clear. On 14 March European Council leaders announced that:
Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a ‘fifth freedom’.
Background to this formal announcement is available in Key Issues Paper (KIP) 2008 (a contribution from the Competitiveness Council to the Spring European Council), and is worth examining for it highlights how the EU is entangling fundamental rights and freedoms with economic (market-oriented) logics, such that new rights are being created, though primarily for researchers (including non-Europeans).
Let is frame how the “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge – is being conceptualized.
First the Competitiveness Council’s Key Issues Paper focuses on four core recommendations:
A. Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation
B. Unlocking business potential, especially of SMEs
C. Transforming Europe into a sustainable economy
D. Encourage European Success in the Global Marketplace
Second, it is within A (Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation) that the Fifth Freedom is embedded:
A.1. “Invest more and more effectively in Knowledge, Research and Innovation”
A.2 “The Fifth Freedom”
A.3. “Strengthen Europe’s Innovation System”
More specifically, the Fifth Freedom is framed as such:
In order to succeed in the transition to a highly competitive knowledge economy, the European Union needs to create a “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge. Member States and the Commission are invited to deepen their dialogue and expand their cooperation in order to further identify and remove obstacles to the cross-border mobility of knowledge.
- The Commission and Member States should take concrete steps to increase human resources for S&T and to enhance the mobility and career prospects of researchers through a coherent set of focussed measures taken in partnership (“European research career and mobility package”); this should also include the concept of “family-friendly scientific careers”, to be developed on the basis of the spring 2008 Presidency initiatives. The Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to present a communication on this in 2008.
- Member States should continue to put their full efforts into implementing higher education reforms, including modernising universities so that they can develop their full potential within the knowledge triangle; a stronger emphasis should be put on life-long learning and cross-border learning opportunities. A review of future skills requirements should be envisaged at European level as part of the follow up to the “New Skills for New Jobs” initiative;
- The European Union needs to continue to work for significant increases in broadband penetration. The Commission is invited to monitor the performance of the EU in the internet economy and report back in time for the 2009 European Council. The Commission is further invited to develop a strategy for e-science building on and strengthening e-infrastructures, so as to ensure the sustainability of European leadership in this field.
- A Community-wide voluntary framework for the management of intellectual property at public research institutions and universities is needed. The Commission is invited to present its recommendation and Code of Practice on the Management of Intellectual Property (“IP Charter”) by public research organisations, with a view to their adoption in 2008 in order to enhance knowledge exchange between public research organisations and industry.
Announcing that ‘knowledge’ would be created as the Fifth Freedom to be championed by the EC within the EU, observers might be forgiven for thinking that the Presidency Conclusions from the 13/14th March meeting, and the background supporting documents, have somehow confused political and economic agendas. This is because we have tended to associate freedoms with political ideas like ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’, or human rights, such as the right to education.
But perhaps the freedoms and rights association is breaking down in contemporary Europe. Freedoms, it would seem, are now economic rather than political rights, embodied in labour and intellectual property, and embedded in market-oriented relations. They also apply unevenly to people (including non-EU citizens) depending on their status vis a vis the production of what is perceived to be valuable knowledge. This is akin to the concept of “graduated sovereignty” that Aihwa Ong has spoken about – the differentiated (graduated) existence of freedoms, rights and responsibilities, within territories, depending the economic status of the person in question. In Singapore, for example highly skilled temporary migrants have the right to rent and even buy apartments, while temporary migrants who work as domestic workers or construction workers are forced, by law, to reside in housing provided by their employers.
For EU policy, I start with the – relatively – easy part: I have radically opened our funding programme, with a double strategy:
- Full association of our neighbour countries, with focus on those who have a perspective to become Member States
- Full participation of researchers all over the world. Every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team. For all but the rich countries, eligibility equals funding. That is quite a step. We also fund the researchers from rich countries if this is what is needed for the scientific excellence of the project.
Thus one of us (Kris, a Canadian in the US) can now directly link into and benefit from one of Europe’s new freedoms – the freedom of movement of knowledge – given that “every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team”, but this eligibility only applies so long as the person in question is a researcher (with PhD), and positioned within a network that has been vetted as a qualified “European research team”.
Freedoms framed this way also depend upon the reform of the practices of new types of institutions (in this case universities and research funding agencies), versus the reform of legal systems, for example.
The application of a freedom discourse to knowledge (the “freedom of movement of knowledge”) is but the latest example where a Europe of knowledge – in the service of the Lisbon Strategy – is being brought into being. The development process is a messy one, with entangled conceptual vocabularies, and periodic debates about possible contradictions (e.g, see Per Nyborg’s entry ‘Bologna and Lisbon – two processes or one‘). But the structural pressures to transform Europe’s economy, its many higher education systems and universities, and its research and development practices, will continue to create such confusions, and new concepts, for some time to come.
Kris Olds and Susan Robertson
Editor’s note: today’s guest entry was kindly written by Ellen Hazelkorn, Director, and Dean of the Faculty of Applied Arts, and Director, Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU), Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. She also works with the OECD’s Programme for Institutional Management of Higher Education (IMHE). Her entry should be read in conjunction with some of our recent entries on the linkages and tensions between the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Strategy, the role of foundations and endowments in facilitating innovative research yet also heightening resource inequities, as well as the ever present benchmarking and ranking debates.
The recent Council of the European Union’s statement on the role of higher education is another in a long list of statements from the EU, national governments, the OECD, UNESCO, etc., proclaiming the importance of higher education (HE) to/for economic development. While HE has long yearned for the time in which it would head the policy agenda, and be rewarded with vast sums of public investment, it may not have realised that increased funding would be accompanied with calls for greater accountability and scrutiny, pressure for value-for-money, and organisational and governance reform. Many critics cite these developments as changing the fundamentals of higher education. Has higher education become the victim of its own propaganda?
At a recent conference in Brussels a representative from the EU reflected on this paradox. The Lisbon Strategy identified a future in which Europe would be a/the leader of the global knowledge economy. But when the statistics were reviewed, there was a wide gap between vision and reality. The Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, which has become the gold standard of worldwide HE rankings, has identified too few European universities among the top 100. This was, he said, a serious problem and blow to the European strategy. Change is required, urgently.
University rankings are, whether we like it or not, beginning to influence the behaviour of higher education institutions and higher education policy because they arguably provide a snap-shot of competition within the global knowledge industrial sector (see E. Hazelkorn, Higher Education Management and Policy, 19:2, and forthcoming Higher Education Policy, 2008). Denmark and France have introduced new legislation to encourage mergers or the formation of ‘pôles’ to enhance critical mass and visibility, while Germany and the UK are using national research rankings or teaching/learning evaluations as a ‘market’ mechanism to effect change. Others, like Germany, Denmark and Ireland, are enforcing changes in institutional governance, replacing elected rectors with corporate CEO-type leadership. Performance funding is a feature everywhere. Even the European Research Council’s method of ‘empowering’ (funding) the researcher rather than the institution is likely to fuel institutional competition.
In response, universities and other HEIs are having to look more strategically at the way they conduct their business, organise their affairs, and the quality of their various ‘products’, e.g., educational programming and research. In return for increased autonomy, governments want more accountability; in return for more funding, governments want more income-generation; in return for greater support for research, governments want to identify ‘winners’; and in return for valuing HE’s contribution to society, governments want measurable outputs (see, for example, this call for an “ombudsman” for higher education in Ireland).
European governments are moving from an egalitarian approach – where all institutions are broadly equal in status and quality – to one in which excellence is promoted through elite institutions, differentiation is encouraged through competitive funding, public accountability is driven by performance measurements or institutional contacts, and student fees are a reflection of consumer buoyancy.
But neither the financial costs nor implications of this strategy – for both governments and institutions – have been thought through. The German government has invested €1.9b over five years in the Excellence Initiative but this sum pales into insignificance compared with claims that a single ‘world class’ university is a $1b – $1.5b annual operation, plus $500m with a medical school, or with other national investment strategies, e.g., China’s $20b ‘211 Project’ or Korea’s $1.2b ‘Brain 21’ programme, or with the fund-raising capabilities of US universities (‘Updates on Billion-Dollar Campaigns at 31 Universities’; ‘Foundations, endowments and higher education: Europe ruminates while the USA stratifies‘).
Given public and policy disdain for increased taxation, if European governments wish to compete in this environment, which policy objectives will be sacrificed? Is the rush to establish ‘world-class’ European universities hiding a growing gap between private and public, research and teaching, elite and mass education? Evidence from Ireland suggests that despite efforts to retain a ‘binary’ system, students are fleeing from less endowed, less prestigious institutes of technology in favour of ‘universities’. At one stage, the UK government promoted the idea of concentrating research activity in a few select institutions/centres until critics, notably the Lambert report and more recently the OECD, argued that regionality does matter.
Europeans are keen to establish a ‘world class’ HE system which can compete with the best US universities. But it is clear that such efforts are being undertaken without a full understanding of the implications, intended and unintended.
The role of university endowment funds in supporting higher education institutions varies significantly across space and time. Some higher education systems make no use of them, nor do they plan on doing so, while others are grappling with the socio-cultural, legal and political hurdles preventing their emergence as tangible material forces.
Over the course of the last six years, following a move to the United States (I’m based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, est., 1848) I’ve had a crash course on the socio-cultural foundations of endowment funds. It is this dimension that is amongst the most significant yet intangible force facilitating the development of endowments. I’ve acquired insights on this issue via guiding some visitors from Europe (including people involved in the Bologna Process, as well as from the European Commission) to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Foundation (pictured above), and simply by living and working in this context (an unplanned ethnography, if you will). The UW Foundation, which is the 46th largest in the US, has an endowment worth $1,645,250,000 (at the end of 2007). Note, though, that it is a separate endowment from the University’s autonomous technology transfer office (WARF) which has its own $1.5 billion endowment, and the UW Trust Funds (worth $450 million) that support all 26 campuses in the UW System.
During tours through the UW Foundation offices at 1848 University Avenue, which employs approximately 130 people, we witnessed a veritable machine in motion: counselors guiding dialogue between prospective donors and options for targeted initiatives; strategists working out the aggregate demographics of alumni base transformations; analysts working with integrated data bases that can identify thousands of data points including the occupations (including employers) of individual alumni, the value of their houses, and the ideal time (in terms of career and generational transition) to court them for large-scale donations; and a large room with computers and headsets where an additional 110 students (paid on an hourly basis, with free pizza on Friday nights) work from approximately 3:00 pm on so as to call alumni spread across the country while they are home at the end of the working day, but before they start winding down for bedtime.
Institutionalization aside, I’ve also witnessed the construction of a family-like university-alumni relationship such that the university, via the provision of a high quality (usually) education, generates a lasting social relationship with individuals. Apart from in the classroom, this also occurs via the establishment and maintenance of carefully crafted places where lasting memories of a positive nature can be created (such as the lake-side student union and Bascom Hill), events (including sporting events) which are often associated with planned spectacles (e.g., see the 49 second video clip below) that spark memorable experiences,
and the saturation of students’ senses with visual icons – in Madison’s case numerous trademarked logos, and the beloved starburst chairs that are placed on the lake-side student union. These places, events, and icons are seared into the memories of all alumni, with subtle but equally effective reinforcement provided by their inclusion in the free alumni magazines that get mailed out on a regular basis.
Upon reflection, the Canadians on campus, and visiting Europeans, view the construction of such a propulsive system with both fascination and a touch of unease. The brazenness of the effort to construct ‘family’, and then the application of advanced data bases to mine these relations to acquire financial gifts, can seem a touch too strategic and material in orientation. But when I meet alumni while parking cars at my son’s school playing field (a fundraiser that takes advantage of the fact that the 82,000 seat university football stadium is a mere three blocks away), I engage in direct conversations regarding, and observations of, that intangible alumni feeling. To be sure it is overtly strategic in some ways, but these people also feel like they are ‘giving back’: they are, in their minds, honouring the institution that played such a fundamental role in reshaping their lives, in connecting them to lasting friends (and often romantic partners), and marking their transition to adulthood. Of course they are also, via their donations, supporting subsequent cohorts of students. And the effects on the university are striking, with the John and Tashia Morgridge-funded Institutes of Discovery but one of the more striking examples. Indeed one group of alumni even donated $85 million in 2007 to ensure that the Business School is not named after any one person for the next 20 years; a surreal donation, in some ways, given the present logic of the system. In short, while the structural context is clearly a factor, it is the intangible socio-cultural dimensions that play a fundamentally important role in facilitating this development process.
While universities in many parts of the world begin to grapple with socio-cultural, legal, and ideological dimensions of foundations, and endowment bases, it is also worth taking into account the emerging effects these endowments have in aggregate. Recently released data by the National Association of College and Business Officers (NACUBO) in the US identifies a clear private/public schism, and it is this schism that is the topic of discussion in today’s New York Times. As the NYT article notes:
The result is that America’s already stratified system of higher education is becoming ever more so, and the chasm is creating all sorts of tensions as the less wealthy colleges try to compete. Even state universities are going into fund-raising overdrive and trying to increase endowments to catch up.
The wealthiest colleges can tap their endowments to give substantial financial aid to families earning $180,000 or more. They can lure star professors with high salaries and hard-to-get apartments. They are starting sophisticated new research laboratories, expanding their campuses and putting up architecturally notable buildings….
Higher education has always been stratified, but the disparities were never as large as today. In the early 1990s, endowment income represented a small part of revenues at most colleges and universities. In 1990 Harvard’s endowment was $4.4 billion.
The last decade brought a sea change, as sophisticated money managers hired by the universities moved their portfolios into hedge funds, private equities and other high-performing investments, and endowments skyrocketed.
Some of the effects of the hastening stratification are evident even in my own relatively well-endowed university, where high quality departments (e.g., Political Science) have been raided by private Ivy League universities, leading to the departure of about ¼ of all of the professors in the last three years. Business Week also has two related stories (‘The dangerous wealth of the Ivy League‘ and ‘Educational excellence, without Ivy‘) regarding the effects of this stratification process.
Many European universities are in the early stages of establishing foundations and building up endowments, though most really have no idea how to do so. This said one emerging trend is to acquire gifts via firms (i.e., not high ‘net worth’ individuals), which will inevitably fuel the relative growth of business schools (unless these monies are taxed for the benefit of all assuming the business school is not stand-alone). Yet the development process is fraught with unresolved debates: is this a good idea?; is this a workable idea?; how does one overcome the socio-cultural barriers to the idea of donating money when ‘already’ paying via the tax system?; how can the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) compete (assuming it wants to) with the US without endowments, or at least substantially enhanced and concentrated funding of select universities?; etc. It is also noteworthy that key institutions, including the European University Association (EUA) and the European Commission, have yet to acquire accurate and systematic data about what endowments (if any) exist within individual European universities (though not for lack of trying). And at a broader scale the OECD has not conducted any serious research on this issue; a somewhat surprising fact given the policy relevance of the phenomenon.
So as Europe ruminates (or perhaps equivocates), it does make me wonder if this not too significant of an issue, and a debate, to be left to individual European countries (with the UK the most active), European universities, and European politicians, to grapple with. In short, why is there no systematic analysis and coordinated discussion?
Note: ISCED = International Standard Classification of Education
Source: European Union (2007) State of European Cities Report: Adding Value to the European Urban Audit, Brussels: European Union.